21 July 1995

French back biofuel

FRENCH bio-diesel producers have not only convinced their government to back the crop but they are also running an "environmental charter" to maintain support.

The aim is to demonstrate the crops energy and environmental benefits, monitor input use and improve management.

The charter was launched in 1992, explains project co-ordinator Raymond Reau of CETIOM in Paris. It is a "collective undertaking", with farmers receiving a summary of management principles, which technical advisers develop into local advice. An annual survey pinpoints trends. A key message from the survey has been the good energy balance for the crop when the energy value of the biodiesel, plus glycerine and rape meal by-products, is compared with the cost of production and processing.

"The ratio is always positive, at about 2.6. It is also important to realise that the higher the yield the better the energy ratio," explains Mr Reau.

Production costs average about £210/ha (£85/acre) and gross margins £100-£80/ha (£40-£32/acre), although 10-20% of growers see a negative margin each year. &#42